A goalie who had a mediocre career (at best), Murray Bannerman's name will be remembered more for the equipment he wore over the statistical impact he achieved for his team.
If you were to sift through the multitude of "Top Goalie Mask" lists, Murray's name (and subsequent lid) frequent high-ranking spots. A real eye-catching mask that was the inspiration for numerous hand-drawn pictures by me as a kid, it goes down as one of the best ever.
Murray came over to the Hawks in the summer of 1978 from the Vancouver Canucks. He didn't see action in the nets until 1980, backing up veteran Tony Esposito.
While he didn't receive much playing time his first couple seasons, he made everyone take notice when he skated out to the net. Murray's mask gave instant recognition and drew support from the crowd and teammates alike. He developed a solid fan following (and I have no doubt his 'fan friendly' mask was a part of that) and eventually took over the number one spot on the Chicago depth charts.
While his numbers weren't spectacular (27 wins was his best season), Bannerman was chosen to appear in two NHL All-Star games.
At the end of the 1987 season, Murray was demoted to the IHL and ended up retiring from the game shortly thereafter. Only 10 years after being drafted by the Canucks, Murray was out of the game entirely. He finished with 116 career wins and 20 more in the playoffs.
Now let's take a closer look at his mask.
Designed by renowned mask maker Greg Harrison, Bannerman's mask shape is a direct result from the face mold taken of Murray back in the day. Those trying to replicate the mask today for their own use will not be able to re-create the complete look, due to the shape of Bannerman's face.
The paint job on this mask is one of the most unique from that era. Harrison turned Murray's mask into a three dimensional Hawks' logo (truly a stroke of genius). The war-paint on this mask is enough to spook any opponent and note the emphasis on the eyes - it 'suggests a mysterious power to see through and around things' (so I read).
The originator of the 'headdress/Indian-face' motif, this mask has also been the inspiration of numerous masks worn by Hawks' tenders in the years after Bannerman set the standard.
What I found interesting in researching this mask is that for such an iconic mask in the history of NHL goalies, there is next to no information on this mask. I would have thought this mask to have been dissected and analyzed numerous times. Sadly no.
I think this mask had that 'outside the box' attitude in comparison to the growing trend of 'helmet and cage' goalies of the 1980's. Murray's mask grabbed the attention of people and epitomizes the phrase "I'm known more for my mask than anything else". You'd never recognize him walking down the street.
A definite fave of mine.
4.5 out of 5
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